Originally formed several years ago as a project run by Ealing Mencap, I Love Thunder is a band composed of eight members – ranging in age from 16 to 67 – most of whom have some form of learning disability.
Rehearsing every week, they regularly take part in organised music workshops and are becoming increasingly seasoned performers via gigs at various festivals.
Their combined musical tastes are certainly nothing if not eclectic, their wildly diverse live sets comprising material from the likes of Chuck Berry, Bob Marley and Pink Floyd. According to manager Nick Radclyffe, who also plays in the band on rhythm guitar, “We try to work across all the musical tastes within the band, which can be quite tense at times! Whatever songs we take on we do in our own way.”
The members’ musical backgrounds are similarly mixed. Drummer Dan Highfield attended regular drum tuition lessons, and the band’s oldest member, lead guitarist Eric Percival, is a lifelong player who learnt primarily by ear. Bassist Vince Wise, meanwhile, essentially learnt his instrument through his involvement with the band, using a colour-coded system created by the Norwegian learning disabilities organisation Dissimilis.
Nick’s son Luke, who has Down’s syndrome, is also in the band, having started music therapy at the age of three and gone on to develop keyboard skills and a good working knowledge of music theory. Rounding out the line-up are vocalists Lee Gentle, Paul Goodger and Anne Corrigan – the latter of whom, Nick notes, “Comes from an Irish family background and has often sung solo at various events – she’ll sing at the drop of a hat!”
In November 2012 the band were among 49 recipients of a BBC Performing Arts Fund Award, enabling them to organise sessions with a range of performers from different musical backgrounds in order to broaden their musical vocabulary. “We’ve had a heavy metal band, a country band and Blues players,” recalls Nick. “Also a tabla player and poet duo and a jazzy singer songwriter, rehearsing a particular song with each of them.”
Not that the Super Session marks the end of anything. In Nick’s view, “We’re a great live band. One piece of feedback we got at a recent fundraising concert was that we brought the whole thing to life. Quite a few people are surprised at how together we are and how just how good we can sound.”This month sees a culmination of the band’s musical explorations in the form of a show taking place at at Brentford’s Watermans Theatre, dubbed the ‘I Love Thunder Super Session‘. As Nick explains, “It’s about celebrating what we’ve been able to do with the performing arts fund money and sharing that with people.”
Need to Know
– The I Love Thunder Super Session takes place at Waterman’s Theatre, Brentford on 26th October from 7.30pm.
– The evening will include performances from four other acts, including Texan country performers Marianne Hyatt and Bob Collum, speech/tabla performance duo Philip Wells and Sirish Kumar and singer songwiter Andrea Black, accompanied by renowned session bassist Winston Blisset.
– Tickets to the event are priced at £10 and £5 for concessions; admission is free for carers. Tickets can be booked in advance by contacting the Watermans Theatre box office on 020 8232 1010 or visiting www.watermans.org.uk
– For more information about I Love Thunder, visit www.ilovethunder.co.uk